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Something Wonderful: Ithaca by C.P.Cavafy


As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

[HT: John Condon]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • David November 16, 2018, 3:48 PM

    You are priceless sir. Get a mail box so I can show my appreciation for your marvellous humanity.

  • Jaynie November 17, 2018, 4:39 AM

    That was marvelous.
    “you’ll never find things like that on your way
    as long as you keep your thoughts raised high.”
    Oh, the heights to which man can ascend are awesome.
    The continuum from a base man, who destroys and harms everything and everyone, through the stages in between, to the benevolent and the creative heights of man is as if moving from one species to a completely different one.
    Thank you for that something wonderful.

  • PA Cat November 17, 2018, 2:25 PM

    Jackie Kennedy’s companion read this poem at her funeral in 1994; that was my first encounter with Cavafy. Thank you for posting this version.

  • Montefrío July 2, 2019, 9:49 AM

    “Happy like all those who believe,
    and like Emperor Manuel end their lives
    dressed modestly in their faith” : Cavafy, (Keely & Sherrard translation)
    I believe President Trump once mentioned him in a tweet but misspelled his name.